Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s Battle System Explained
Nintendo’s latest Switch exclusive, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, is a massive and complex JRPG. Especially when talking about the combat system, there are a lot of different layers and facets that can take some work to understand. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 does teach you the ins and outs of everything across the first few chapters, but it can be a bit tough to follow, so we’ll try and help make everything clear.
Combat plays out in Xenoblade 2 much like it would in an MMO, as your party runs around the world and encounters enemies of varying levels that you can see displayed above their heads. Hitting R targets an enemy, and then you’ll need to hit A in order to start combat and attack the enemy. All of your party members will auto-attack on their own, so you’ll just need to control their position and arts, among other things. We’ll get to arts in a second. To switch targets, simply hold down R and then use A and Y to cycle between enemies. Also, if you need to flee from a battle just hold down R and then hit B to put away your weapon. It’s quite likely you’ll get in over your head a few times in the game, so don’t be afraid to run away and get to safety. If a party member does fall, as long as you have one bar in the party gauge at the top left of the screen, you can run up to them and revive them during battle.
Arts and Cancels
Arts make up the bulk of your combat power in Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and you’ll constantly be using them throughout the game. Arts are assigned to X, Y, and A respectively but each is on a cooldown. Instead of being on a timer, however, the cooldown reduces as you use auto attacks. Once an art is active simply hit the face button to use it. Arts tie into something called Blade Combos, which will come up in a bit. Another aspect of combat, cancels, ties into using arts. If you hit the art button right when one of your auto attacks hits the enemy you’ll use a cancel, noted by a blue circle appearing around your character. Using cancels will reduce the amount of time for your art cooldowns, so it’s something that should be a big focus during combat.
Equipping and Switching Blades
In addition to equipping your main party, much of your time in Xenoblade 2 will be spent awakening and equipping the various blades in the game. Early on you’ll get the ability to awaken Blades and set them to a Driver, with each Blade having four arts that can be set to any of the three buttons. The main thing to keep in mind with the different Blades is that they each have a specific element and a specific role. For example, Pyra makes Rex a Striker who’s good at dealing damage but doesn’t want to draw all the aggro of enemies. Whereas a tank should be drawing all the aggro while the other party members stay safe. Elements also play a big role when finding enemies’ weaknesses and launching into combos.
During battle you can switch between your Blades by using the directional buttons, although like arts they’re on a cooldown as well. Early on you’ll be able to set two Blades, but will have to progress through the game before being able to set three. You can equip different Core Chips on Blades to make their weapon stronger, and set accessories and progress their affinity charts. The exception to all this is Poppy, Tora’s Blade, who’s the only blade that can be set on Tora. Poppy’s progression is done by playing the retro Tiger Tiger! game at Tora’s house and earning ether crystals that you use to upgrade her.
Most enemies you face will have some kind of elemental weakness, just like your Blades. When you look at the enemies’ health bar you can see a small symbol to the right of it. This denotes their elemental weakness, so a flame means they’re weak to fire, while a bolt means they’re weak to lightning. By watching this you can use a Blade that has your enemies’ weakness, and get an advantage in battle, if you have a Blade of that type.